Microsoft AI Achieves Highest Ms. Pac-Man Score Possible

The video game world recently witnessed Ms. Pac-Man history: For the first time, the game’s maximum score of 999,990 points has been reached. As Business Insider reports, the landmark wasn’t achieved by a competitive gamer but rather an AI algorithm owned by Microsoft.

After the AI start-up Maluuba was acquired by Microsoft in January, one of their first orders of business was developing a system capable of running through the Atari 2600 version of Ms. Pac-Man with more efficiency than any human player. To do this, they set up a program that rewarded the AI for completing different tasks like dodging ghosts and eating fruit. Each accomplishment was assigned a certain value, allowing the algorithm to prioritize problems as they arose. You can learn more about the strategy behind the win in the video below.

The game ended when Ms. Pac-Man racked up 999,990 points, the highest number the game can reach before resetting to zero. According to highscore.com, the previous Atari 2600 Ms. Pac-Man record of 266,330 belonged to a man from Brazil. Though it isn’t the most popular version of the title, researchers chose to play on the Atari 2600 game because the console has become standard for AI projects across the field. The maximum score on the original Ms. Pac-Man game, however, is still up for grabs.

[h/t Business Insider]

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Finally! Windows Notepad Is Getting an Update for the First Time in Years
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While some of Window's core programs have evolved dramatically over the years, or disappeared all together, Notepad has remained pretty basic. But as The Verge reports, the text-editing app is about to get a little fancier: Microsoft is updating it for the first time in years.

Since it debuted in 1985, Notepad has become a popular platform for writing out code. One common complaint from programmers working in non-Windows coding language is that Notepad doesn't format line breaks properly, resulting in jumbled, messy text. Now, both Unix/Linux line endings (LF) and Macintosh line endings (CR) are supported in Notepad, making it even more accessible to developers.

For the first time, users can zoom text by holding ctrl and scrolling the mouse wheel. They can also delete the last word in their document by pressing ctrl+backspace. On top of all that, the new update comes with a wrap-around find-and-replace feature, a default status bar with line and column numbers, and improved performance when handling large files.

The arrow keys will be easier to navigate as well. You can now use the arrow keys to deselect text before moving the cursor. And if you ever want to look up a word online, Microsoft will allow you to connect directly to Bing through the app.

The new Notepad update will be made available first to Windows Insiders through Windows 10 Insider Preview, then to everyone on the forthcoming update, codenamed Redstone 5, likely later this year.

[h/t The Verge]

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New Website Lets You Sift Through More Than 700,000 Items Found in Amsterdam's Canals
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Amsterdam's canals are famous for hiding more than eight centuries of history in their mud. From 2003 to 2012, archaeologists had the rare opportunity to dig through an urban river that had been pumped dry, and now 99% Invisible reports that their discoveries are available to browse online.

The new website, dubbed Below the Surface, was released with a book and a documentary of the same name. The project traces the efforts of an archaeological dig that worked parallel to the construction of Amsterdam's new North/South metro line. To bore the train tunnels, crews had to drain part of the River Amstel that runs through the city and dig up the area. Though the excavation wasn't originally intended as an archaeological project, the city used it as an opportunity to collect and preserve some of its history.

About 800 years ago, a trading port popped up at the mouth of the River Amstel and the waterway become a bustling urban hub. Many of the artifacts that have been uncovered are from that era, while some are more contemporary, and one piece dates back to 4300 BCE. All 700,000 objects, which include, toys, coins, and weapons, are cataloged online.

Visitors to the website can look through the collection by category. If you want to view items from the 1500s, for example, you can browse by time period. You also have the option to search by material, like stoneware, for example, and artifact type, like clothing.

After exploring the database, you can learn more about its history in the Below the Surface documentary on Vimeo (English subtitles are coming soon).

[h/t 99% Invisible]

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